The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

(Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
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These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"

More Than One Evolution

If this theory has to be taken literally, then memes must be competing for survival, just like genes. This means that a meme does not necessarily serve the goals of a gene. A meme must be as selfish as a gene is.

The British psychologist Susan Blackmore believes that genes and memes actually "co-evolve".

She subscribes to the notion that each mind is but a meme machine ("a memeplex running on the physical machinery of a human brain").  Human action is the product of interactions between genes, memes and their environment.

A "memeplex" is a group of memes that band together for some mutual advantage.  They assimilate memes that are compatible with them and reject memes that are incompatible. This way the memeplex as a whole becomes stronger and stronger and each participating meme benefits. Religions and ideologies are memeplexes.

Blackmore paints a picture of minds invaded by memes all the time, that function only as processors of memes.

Our minds are triggered by memes. We can never stop thinking. We do not think, we are thought by the memes that invade us.

As Dawkins has shown, memes are replicators. Blackmore formalizes this view in an extension of modern synthesis: Darwinian thinking must be applied to two replicators, not just one, and the result is meme-gene co-evolution. There are phenomena that cannot be explained by genetic motivation alone (e.g., language, which does not seem to provide any genetic advantage) but are easily explained by memetic motivation. Humans evolved along not one but two axes: the genetic one and the memetic one.

Language spreads memes, therefore language evolved to better spread memes. Language does not represent an evolutionary advantage for genes, but for memes.

Both genes and memes are replicators with equal status. The evolution of the human race is driven by evolution of two replicators.

"Body design" is achieved through competition between genes, i.e. genes compete to be passed to another body and in the process the body is shaped.

"Mind design" is achieved through competition between memes: memes compete to be passed to another mind and in the process the mind is created.

Both genetic and memetic factors are needed to explain what we are. In general, genes give us some skills, and then memes determine how we use them. For example, one can be genetically gifted as a writer, but then it is memes that determine what she will write.


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